Thursday, February 13, 2014

Rider's Block

So, I mounted up and headed out on Bombay, ready for a nice, relaxing trail ride.  I was determined to make this work, because I have had to dismount him and walk home the past three times I rode him due to him flipping out over other horseback riders trotting or galloping past or toward him, other horses spooking, or loose dogs doing figure 8's around his legs.

We headed up the driveway and he paused as the daycare van raced up from behind us.  I didn't mind that he stopped, because I have trained him to stop before crossing streets and stop when there is traffic ahead.  I got him across the street when it was clear, and then he balked at the gate, which he never does. I sighed and said, "Now what?"

Coming toward us down the trail head was that same old man on a bicycle who apparently lives on his bicycle in the desert right in front of my house 24/7 -- the same man who has no manners toward other people on the trail, no knowledge on how to behave around horses, and no common sense.  He has been a major stick in my craw these past few months.  He was the one who kept circling around and coming up from behind Bombay without announcing his presence.  He did it four times in one 10 minute period.

Part of the problem is that he's not trying to get from point A to point B or taking a straight track in order to get his exercise.  If a bicyclist is just passing us, the horses tend to pop their heads up, but once the bicyclist is gone, they go back to the task at hand.  This guy, though, won't leave.  He's bored and retired and he likes to just slowly circle his bicycle around in the desert going nowhere in particular.  So, I can't even pick a trail to avoid him, because he always ends up in my face everywhere I go.

As soon as he saw me, he backed off the trail head and motioned with his arm for me to come up it, since there was only room for one person.  I tried pushing Bombay forward, but his brakes were locked.  He was giraffing it, trying to keep track of this man on the bike, who was now popping in and out of bushes as he rode in figure 8's at the other end of the gauntlet.  When the man saw that I still hadn't come up the trail, he angrily motioned me to come up with his arm.  I said, "My horse isn't going to move unless you stop and hold still in his line of vision.  You can't be riding around popping in and out of bushes."

Apparently, like I've suspected before, this man is deaf.  He continued doing what he was doing, only occasionally throwing grumpy glances my way.  I'm sure he was thinking, "Why is this lady blocking the gate with her horse?  I need to get through there."

He got impatient and tried sneaking up from the side by cutting the trail.  Bombay was looking up the trail where he last saw the man, so when the man suddenly appeared out of the bushes to our right, Bombay ran backwards and snorted.  When he gets like that, it feels like you are riding a steam engine that's gone off its tracks.  By now, Bombay was backing into the road, and I just lost it.

I'm usually very polite to other people on the trail, because we have to learn how to share it, but this guy has ruined so many of my horseback rides.  I was pissed at him for being such an idiot, pissed at Bombay for choosing to ignore me every time he thinks he's in danger, and pissed over the fact that with each ride out, I have to dismount sooner and sooner, and now it is at the point where I can't even barely get off my property because of all the people who have recently come out of the woodwork.  Also, all of my horses have had bicycles ridden around them while I rode the horses, but that was out in the open where the bicyclist was not popping out of bushes.  If one little thing is different, they can't handle it.

Anyway, I said out loud, "Oh, F it!  Let's just go ride at home where we don't have to deal with scary things that freak you out!"

The man saw me dismount and lead Bombay back across the street, and he came up from behind us.  Bombay jumped and spun, hitting the end of his lead rope and then jigged all the way home.  I rode him in the round pen and discovered that it is has been so long since I've trotted for any considerable length of time that I lost my muscle memory on how to post.  Bombay was being really good about tolerating my mistakes and he'd try to accommodate for my lack of rhythm, then he just slowed way down to his chocolate smooth jog and I was able to just sit still and enjoy it.  My trainer said people would kill to have a horse like Bombay who can sustain a smooth, slow jog for as long as he can.

I kind of wonder if I keep having to abandon my trail rides in the desert because the universe is telling me I should be going back to basics in the round pen and arena.  I haven't practiced any of the riding techniques I was taught by my equitation instructor in probably four years.  I've been so focused on just trail riding.  Bombay remembers everything, but I don't.  I do still use the Clinton Anderson ground training techniques taught to me by my last trainer, but despite Bombay performing those maneuvers willingly and perfectly, it doesn't help him stay on track when we come across other horses, dogs, bicyclists and hikers on the trail.

I know the only way to get him past his fears is to force him to go out there and deal with these people and animals, but I can't even get his legs unlocked.  Turning him doesn't work, because he stands like a statue and I can't even get his head around with the reins when he's on alert.  He may as well be made of stone.  Otherwise, he's extremely responsive.  He'd be any arena rider's dream come true.

But on the trails, all forward movement ends as soon as he sees something that scares him.  My heels may as well be flies on his sides, so I may have to go back to riding with a crop.  I suspect some part of Bombay's brain thinks he is protecting me as well as himself by stopping.  I need a horse psychologist or a pet psychic who can explain to him that if I say something is okay, then he needs to trust me and not worry about it.

And now that I'm done with my lunch, I'm going to go see what the other horses can do.  Hopefully, a lot more than what I got out of Bombay.

1 comment:

Water Girl said...

I'm not sure if you were joking about having a pet psychic coming to read Bombay, but it might be worth a try. While I generally don't believe in the sort of stuff, it made all the difference for a close family friend's dog. When they first got him, he was shy, terrified of everyone and refused to eat. Our friend had someone come out to read Luke (the dog). She told Luke's owner lots of things that she knew, but the pet reader did not. At the end of the session she told Luke that it was ok and that he was home. That night he ate his food and has continued to eat ever since.